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Donah Lekwati FulBright Hubert Humphrey Journey

Donah Lekwati FulBright Hubert Humphrey Journey

The prestigious Fulbright Hubert Humphrey Fellowship is a leadership development program intended to enhance leadership, best practice sharing and promote global networking among participants. The program brings together mid-career leaders in various disciplines to collaborate and address contemporary local and global challenges. I was lucky to have been one of 189 participants from 59 countries around the world in the 2022/23 cohort, and one of 12 education specialists based at the College of Education, Penn State University. Speaking of my base, I was based at two Universities, Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania and Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

The focus of my program was Higher Education Administration, Planning and Policy. In keeping with the aims of the Humphrey Fellowship, I built my program around three key tenets. The role of leadership and academic policy in promoting engaged campuses for the benefit of the university community. To this end within the classroom, I pursued graduate level study in Administrative Leadership in Higher Education, Strategic Management and Strategic Leadership. Outside the classroom in associated with the Student Engagement Network at Penn State, networked through several higher education conferences throughout the United States. The second tenet was academic administration immersion with a focus on business operational efficiency and strategic stakeholder management to which I was blessed to work and learn from my counterparts in the Registrars’ of Penn State and Western Carolina universities, in State College, Pennsylvania and Cullowhee, North Carolina, respectively. The last tenet was to promote the interests of Botswana higher education in the United States and explore opportunities for collaborations within areas of mutual interests. Work in this regard is on-going. I am also quite pleased to note my acquisition of a new skill set in leadership and governance during times of crises that I acquired from the world’s best public affairs school, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in Syracuse University, NY.

I emerged from this professional and personal development journey with several learnings. The most important to highlight is the critical role that leadership plays in driving the realization of an organization’s vision. And that the same leadership values that drive success in business, the military or civic sphere are just as key to success in higher education. Key notable impact initiatives I am most proud of include the development of the Student Engagement Framework, a practical guide for academic administrations to integrate the in and out of classroom experience with the resources within and beyond campus in order to (1) cultivate an enriching campus experience, (2) develop an active citizen resourced to meaningfully contribute to the economy and (3) demonstrate stakeholder value. They also include unlocking the underutilised value through the adoption of sustainability as a core institutional value.

The legacy of my Fulbright Hubert Humphrey Fellowship is making sure that the connections I have established add value to my continuing development as a leader and in my work in academic administration. Furthermore, I see this legacy having a direct benefit to my university, BIUST in particular, higher education in Botswana and making an impact directly at the community level.